On Sunday afternoon, myself and around fifteen other people – most of them women – perch ourselves on armchairs in a cosy room in Appletree Writers at The Whole Works, on a quiet alley just off the Royal Mile. We are here to listen to women read out the stories and poems they have written about their experiences of sectarianism in Scotland.
This one-off event was particularly eye-opening and insightful, grappling with some important issues worthy of much more attention than they have been receiving.
These stories, along with many others, have recently been compiled in a book called Mixing the Colours: Women Speaking about Sectarianism, the result of a project by the Glasgow Women’s Library as part of the Scottish Government Action on Tackling Sectarianism. Mixing the Colours, which showcases the poems and stories of fifteen women, aims to make the voices of women heard as they discuss their experiences with bigotry, discrimination and violence.
The afternoon begins with Leela Soma reciting her poem Orange and Green, which contains an episode where her students ask her whether she is “a Catholic or a Proddy Hindu”. Rachel Dalziel then reads out her short story Just Give Me The Girls, exploring what it was like growing up as an Irish Catholic in Scotland. This is followed by a Pauline Lynch’s energetic and evocative reading of her short story Glasgow Talent, and a recital of Nicola Burkhill’s poem No More Sectarian Scotland.
The poems and short stories are insightful, subtle and funny. Although the topic of sectarianism never fades from the foreground, it is never used as an excuse for self-indulgent melancholia or self-pity. While the modes of delivery could have been a bit more varied and compelling, and the pieces - which give off a somewhat workshopy feel - could do with a bit more polish, there is little doubt that the project’s main objective of encouraging female solidarity and empowerment has been achieved.
For a non-Scottish person such as myself, this one-off event was particularly eye-opening and insightful, grappling with some important issues worthy of much more attention than they have been receiving.